For producers who are truly serious about saving more newborn pigs and eliminating stillbirths, the Snatch-and-Save Baby Pig Program may just be the ticket.

The program requires intensive farrowing management and piglet management to provide newborns with the warmth, dryness and sow colostrum they need to get off to a good start, says Kevin Cera, swine nutritionist for Akey Inc., based in Lewisburg, OH.

Farmland, IN, veterinarian Dale Hendrickson developed the nine-step program. He reports some producers have cut preweaning mortality by 5%.

The nine-step program includes:

  1. Synchronize farrowing as early in the morning as possible. This can be done with a Lutalyse injection to get sows and gilts to farrow 1-2 days early.

  2. Attend farrowings for a 10- to 12-hour period each day. Observe each sow at least every 5-10 min.

  3. Prepare “hot boxes” with 4 in. of bedding (do not use pine shavings). Use a plastic or stainless steel box to hold 2-3 litters of pigs. Cera explains that the number and size of the boxes will depend on the number of sows farrowed per week and the space available in the farrowing house. Boxes are numbered for identification. They should be cleaned and disinfected daily. Heat lamps are placed over boxes to maintain temperature at 85-90°F.

    “Most producers are using big plastic pails available at Wal-Mart to hold newborn pigs for processing,” says Cera. They keep 3-5 boxes per room.

  4. Remove (snatch) pigs from sows immediately as they are farrowed. The beauty of this method is that pigs can be treated within 10 min. of birth, explains Hendrickson. They don't have to stay in a crate, struggling to find the source of heat and colostrum, notes Cera. And producers don't have to deal with chaos trying to catch wet, wiggling piglets to process or juggling piglets for crossfostering.

    With the snatch system, pigs are dry and can be processed and placed back in the appropriate box, says Hendrickson.

    Fill one box at a time. Pigs can be randomly pulled from sows until a box is filled. Don't keep pigs in a litter together.

  5. Keep records by placing a farrowing card behind each sow with a numbered space for each potential piglet born. Note time and condition of each birth and all other events.

  6. If the sow does not farrow a pig every 20-30 min., give a ½ cc. dose of oxytocin. If a sow does not farrow within 5-10 min. after the injection, then intervene by attempting to pull pigs.

  7. If a sow does not start farrowing within 30 hours after the Lutalyse injection, then give 1½ cc. of oxytocin to induce farrowing. If the sow still does not farrow by the end of the day, start the induction process over again. When a sow is finished farrowing, give 1 cc. of oxytocin.

  8. Place the oldest processed piglets from the hot boxes onto the sow first. Put big pigs on older sows and small pigs on gilts. Overload litters of smallest pigs by 25% because one-fourth of the smallest pigs will not survive.

    Avoid sudden replacement of a litter of pigs on gilts, as they tend to become excited and aggressive when this is done, warns Cera.

  9. Process litters which farrowed overnight as soon as possible. Leave these litters intact except for sizing of large or small pigs. Don't crossfoster these pigs to sows that farrowed the previous day.

In short, this management program allows the producer to place the number and the size of pigs on the sow desired, says Cera. It also allows producers to time placement so newborns can get the very earliest sow colostrum.

He concludes: “This is split suckling in a sense. But it takes in a much broader concept of dealing with larger sow numbers and how to gain the advantages of split suckling.”